My Breastfeeding Conundrum

Scrolling through social media I am guaranteed to see a precious picture of a mother breastfeeding her baby with the inevitable hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a beautiful gift mothers are able to give to their children and should be absolutely celebrated as an accomplishment. This is what we are made to do. Before formula if a woman couldn’t breastfeed her child he or she would perish unless a wet nurse or other nursing mother would step in to help. Breastfeeding is as old as we are.

I always have another thought however when I see these social media posts. I feel a pang of sorrow sprinkled with resentment towards this mother who is sharing this picture without thought of how it makes those who couldn’t breastfeed feel.

My Story

My view wasn’t of a sweet babe at my breast but of a pump attached to me every two hours. My twins were born very early and never gained the skill to suckle. We had to keep them on slow bottle nipples for a long time because too much too fast would cause them to vomit and  also make it difficult for them to breathe.

Breast or formula? Both are best.

I did the best I could to keep up supply but when you’re only pumping, and need to provide for two, it’s hard to keep up the supply. I was about five months in when I started having bad bleeding and swelling.  I would sit there are cry as I pumped and watch the milk turn red. My husband begged me to stop, asking why I was torturing myself. Formula was just as good he told me. We were using it anyway to supplement.

But it wasn’t good enough for me. It was good enough to all the other moms which is why we are pressured to breastfeed amid the many other options that are out there. Yet my husband was right, I couldn’t do it any longer and formula was perfectly acceptable. I was exhausted and 1 1/2 hour feeding sessions (pumping followed by feeding two babies) with an 1 1/2 break before starting it all over again was too much. I’d be going back to work soon too.

Why We Should Think Twice

So many women can not breastfeed for a multitude of reasons. Preemies, babies with health issues, food intolerances too vast to dissect, cancer, other health ailments, or the simple choice not to. Instead of normalizing breastfeeding we need to normalize feeding our babies. While I know much of it is to do with people getting uncomfortable seeing a woman breastfeeding her child in public many of the posts I see do not embrace this.

Let’s celebrate feeding our babies! Don’t make formula feeding so taboo that a mother using formula feels like she needs to be the one hiding in the restroom. Embrace the differences in each of us as mothers and as parents doing the best we can in the best way we know how.

A Simple Gesture,An Amazing Teacher

To say we are nervous about Michael leaving the protective bubble of our current day care/preschool and entering the big world of elementary in a couple short weeks is an understatement. We want our sparkle boy to be accepted and appreciated for who he is and not bullied into hiding his true identity. This story has two parts so bare with me.

When attending kindergarten open house this past spring to register the boys for school and get information we were handed folders with a ton of information. I glanced through it and then put it aside until later in May. One day I decided I should get a jump start on all the things so I pulled out the supply list. Aside from it being long the other thing I noticed was the first item listed: a pronged two pocket plastic folder, pink for girls and green for boys (available for .50 at Target). I felt my chest tighten and explosions happening all around me.  How was I going to handle this?! I quickly stowed the list back in the folder and tucked it away.  I was not ready to deal with this.

I thought about the best approach for weeks. Do I draw attention to us already and ask about this? Do I tell my child he has to have the green one and then figure out how to answer his questions when he comes home and asks why do the girls get pink ones? I knew what I had to do but working up the courage was a whole task in itself.

The weeks quickly went by and school was nearing an end. Working in school administration for over 11 years I know that a majority of teachers do not check their emails in the summer (nor should they). I knew I had to reach out before the end of school so I could shop during the summer as planned. With the deadline looming I was forced to draw up the courage and email the three kindergarten teachers and ask the question.

I was terrified.  I did not want to start my children’s school career being singled out as “THAT” parent. I’ve had enough experience around administrators, teachers, parents, and students to know how I do and do not want to come across. So, I’m sure I babbled. I prefaced my email explaining our situation. We have a boy who likes pink. They would find he likes to wear pink along with “girl” clothing. I am simply seeking to understand. I was very mindful to not take a defensive or accusatory stance. I simply wanted to understand the reasoning between the two different colors for each gender so I could explain it to my child. I held my breath and hit send.

I almost fell over when I received a response within 20 minutes. My heart jumped when the teacher who replied simply said, “Pink would be perfect!” I breathed the largest sigh of relief. Obstacle number one tackled. I was so happy when we were school shopping and I could confidently hold up the two colored folders and ask the boys which they wanted. Shocker, Patrick wanted green and Michael wanted pink.

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Our sparkle boy.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Glancing at my phone between running around the house getting projects done I noticed an email from someone unknown and the first few lines shown almost made me think it was junk mail but something told me to open it. It was an email from the teacher who my boys have been assigned to. (Side note: the one I was secretly hoping for because I could just feel from her and her classroom that it would be a good fit for our family. Very colorful, artsy, and eclectic.)

The teacher mentioned they were not supposed to share the class lists yet but was reaching out to ask whether it was Michael or Patrick who liked pink. She was busy getting name tags and such ready and wanted to make sure his were pink.  My eyes welled with tears and I could literally feel my heart explode. The simple fact that this teacher had remembered my previous email (I’m sure it’s because I’m on some teacher watch list) and took the time to ask this question could not have put me more at ease. I quickly replied thanking her so much and her reply was simply that she wants all of her students happy and thriving.

I still cry thinking about this. I am going to be this teacher’s biggest fan. My child is going to have an advocate, someone supporting him for who he is and I feel so much better about the start of school.

I know there will still be hurdles. I know other children will say things. But knowing there is one adult, one amazing, open minded teacher on his side is indescribable. I’m not sure she will ever understand the depths of my gratitude but I’ll do my best to show her.

 

Go ahead, judge me.

All one has to do is pay attention to current media to know suicide is on the rise in our country.  For my post on Detroit Moms Blog; 13 Reasons We Should Talk about 13 Reasons Why, I did some research on suicide data with young people.  Digging further into the staggering statistics there is one strong underlying cause, children who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, who not only face adversity in school but also at home, are at greatest risk.

Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is still a struggle.  We want to think that it isn’t, that children are not being bullied because of their sexuality or gender but they are. I have been told that I should suppress my children, namely Michael, from expressing himself for fears that he will be bullied.  Because it’s not “normal”.  We are not ignorant to the fact that he may be bullied.  We are preparing for that very real possibility.  But, instead of burying our heads in the sand we want to be the support system for our child.  We want him to know that he has a safe place with us, in his home.  We want him to know we will protect him and fight with him.

I have many critiques when it comes to how we choose to raise our children.  Some vocal, some silent.  I am not immune to that.  Knowing this gives me fear. Fear that these parents are not teaching their children to love others as they are.  Not teaching their children to be acceptable of the LGBTQ+ community, inadvertently being the problem for those like my child down the road. My biggest fear though, is that one of these parent’s children will be gay, or transgender, or gender fluid but will be raised to feel so suppressed in who they are that they take their own life.  Every time I am criticized or judged I say a silent prayer for the children of that person.  I pray that he or she does not have feelings deemed “not normal” so they are able to grow up happy and healthy.

Here are some facts on suicide from The Trevor Project:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.1
  • LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.2
  • LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.2
  • Of all the suicide attempts made by youth, LGB youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth.2
  • Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers.2
  • In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.3
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.4
  • 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. [5]
  • Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.6

An article written in Psychology Today goes on to say, “Generally speaking, factors that protect against suicide in youth include having a positive relationship with one or more parent, feeling positively connected to and included in school settings as well as feeling involved in a group of peers (Brent et al., 2009). Brent et al. have also identified adaptive family coping (namely: the willingness and ability of a family to alter its rules, structures of power, and relationship roles) as a protective factor against youth suicidal behavior and ideation.”

Many of those who criticize me will also say that if their child were to come out as “gay” they would love them either way.  Yet ask yourself, are you creating an environment that your child feels comfortable expressing who they are?  Do you expose your child to a cultured, open life so he or she feels comfortable in their own skin?

While I do not wish for my child to struggle or face challenges in his life I refuse to ignore and push aside what is blatantly apparent in who he is.  Instead of ignoring his gender creativeness we have chosen to embrace it.  To help him feel more secure in an insecure and unforgiving world.  He is already in therapy with a super supportive therapist helping him to feel comfortable speaking about his feelings and learning coping mechanisms.  We are taking a proactive approach.  I am also thankful that because his twin brother will grow up having an understanding and acceptance of all people, helping to make this world just a tiny bit better.

So please, go ahead and criticize.  Judge me.  Judge my family.  But at the end of the day all I care about is raising happy, healthy, kind humans and I will do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.

 

To My Husband On Father’s Day

Often people ask me, “how do you do it” and typically I answer “I don’t know”.  Do I chalk it up to my lists that have lists? Or my crazy organizing and time management skills?  How about the fact that I have always been a master at multitasking? Yes, all of these certainly ring true but I also have a secret weapon. That secret weapon is you.

We are a team, we have always been a team. (Except when you were peeking into the bathroom with one eye half open as I administered fertility injections <insert cry laughing emoji>). We divide and conquer. Perhaps we were thrown into being a team when we were handed premature twin babies but I think it started long before that.

The only way for a household of dual career parents to stay sane and run smoothly is for both (for those who are blessed to have two) heads of it to work as a cohesive team. We both do pick ups and drop offs. While I am sitting at dance lessons you are at home getting dinner ready and on the table for the minute we come barreling through the door. You’ll do the dishes, laundry, cut the grass, take out the trash, build legos, pack  lunches, handle vet or doctor appointments, run to the grocery store, call the insurance company, and everything in between.  Sure, we each have our “tasks” that we have taken ownership over but neither of us hesitate to jump in when needed.

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The moment you became a father you embraced the roll with your whole being.  It’s you who texts the daycare/preschool multiple times a day to check on your sweet boys, you make them breakfast each morning and help tuck them in at night.  You love to snuggle them and they love you for it.  Our twins have the best example of what a loving, hardworking, caring father is and I know they will be better humans for it.

I am blessed to share my life with you.  You are my champion, my cheerleader, and my best friend.  When I’m feeling at my lowest and want to give up on something you remind me why I started and that nothing can stop me.  Sometimes we need to take a different road, or pick a new direction, but we can not give up.

Your strength and protectiveness are the rock of our family. Your heart of gold and patience fills our home with love. Your boys adore you.  I adore you.  You are our world and we love you.  Happy Father’s Day.

 

Why We Need To Stop Separating Boys and Girls

Two amazing parents I follow on social media have recently shared their child’s struggles with finding a place in varying daily childhood activities. Personally, I have been struggling with the same concepts as I prepare for my twins to enter kindergarten this fall.

Again and again I see children split into two categories, whether in school, for activity groups, sports, you name it. These categories, more often than not, are “boys” and “girls”. If we stop to think, what are we telling young children?  Separating boys and girls at such a young age is the equivalent of screaming at them “you are different and should be treated that way!”  When I think about this I think about my own son Michael.

While Michael does identify as a boy he relates more to girls and enjoys more “girl” activities.  Telling a gender creative child  like Michael that he must be with the boys is like a giant slap in the face; telling him he shouldn’t like to hang out with the girls and it’s not ok that he relates more to the opposite sex.  The issue is further compounded by having to be around boys that he may not relate well to and who very well may be teasing him.

Gender Split

Splitting children into boy groups and girl groups are not setting our children up for effectively co-existing with the other sex later in life.  Society is incredibly diverse, most women work at some point in her life, even if choosing to stay home at one point to raise babies (same goes for dads too!).

In competitive settings such as sports or spelling bees, separating girls and boys implies that only one gender can be better than the other.  Keeping teams or groups mixed implies to children they must work together for better productivity and cohesiveness both in the workplace and at home.

To obtain a culture that eliminates gender biases and inequality then we must start teaching children at a young age to coexist.  We can not set an example that it’s boys vs girls by always dividing them.

If it’s necessary to split children up into smaller groups just get creative!  Who likes ice cream and who likes cake? Who likes to color who likes to paint?  There are many ways to segregate that isn’t based on gender, race, religion, etc.  In the end our children will learn to be more inclusive and work together in life leading to a society that promotes equality between genders.

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

One thing I believe in wholeheartedly is living your life with an attitude of gratitude.  Our society, thanks largely in part to social media, has created a culture of dissatisfaction sprinkled with some envy that leaves people wanting more and making choices that are not always wise and best for their current situation. We fail to look at everything we have around us, all of our blessings, small and large; focusing only on what we don’t have that others do.

It can be hard to change a mindset that you have been been living in for such a long time. I totally get that. It takes time and intention to reverse your thoughts to truly love your life and find gratitude in everything.  One way I have found incredibly impactful is keeping a gratitude journal.  A gratitude journal can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.  Here are a few options:

  1. Grab a cute blank journal at Target and write 3-5 things you’re grateful for at the beginning or end of each day.
  2. If you are already journaling add your 3-5 items to your current daily journal entry.
  3. Get an adorbs gratitude journal like the one pictured.  You can find them at any bookstore, Amazon, etc.  (This is my preference and I purchased the pictured one through Amazon.)

Your gratitude items do not need to be huge.  Certainly they can be, but not necessary.  One day could read as easy as “I’m grateful for a cup of fresh hot coffee, the birds I hear through my window when I wake up, and Grey’s Anatomy.”

You won’t see an instant change, like everything it will take some time and intentionality.  With consistency you will notice a change in your heart and attitude towards life.   So stop looking at everyone’s highlight reel on social media and start paying more attention to what you have around you.  I know you can and I know you will be so much happier for it.

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Michael Goes to Therapy

This past week was Michael’s first therapy session.  I was so nervous for like two days before it I couldn’t stand it.  I don’t even know why!  I guess no one thinks it’s quite “normal” to take a 5 year old to therapy and most parents never think they will need to take their young one to therapy but I felt it was best to be proactive rather than reactive.  So what I didn’t envision until the teen years jumped ahead a bit.

I did a lot of research to find someone who has worked with the type of scenarios we are working through and was thankfully able to find someone close to home.  I explained to Michael we were going to talk to a nice person to help us make sure we are doing all we can to ensure his happiness.  I reminded him that Patrick had to go to therapy a lot, which he certainly remembers, so he would realize there are different types of therapy and everyone needs help sometimes.  Mommy and Daddy have been to therapy too!

Donned in his new favorite black sequin jeans and his fave pink zip up hoodie with black cats we entered this new season.  Michael is so perceptive and in tune with things.  I knew that no matter what I said he was going to be nervous and unsure.  Thankfully he was still willing to talk but the fidgeting!  Oh the fidgeting.  He was rubbing the sequins back and forth on his pants so much I’m amazed they didn’t all fall off.  Once he was a little more comfortable he dove into the small toy box in the corner and played with everything no matter what it was.  I wanted so bad just to tell him to be still but I am sure he was so nervous and didn’t need a mom nag on top of it.

After we talked some about our concerns and why we were seeking therapy and the therapist got to know Michael a little we stepped out of the room so she could have one on one time with him.  At first Michael was scared but I was so proud of him for being so brave and willing to let mom and dad leave the room.  When we were invited back in she told us that he certainly opened up more when we were gone.  I was a little sad that he wouldn’t say some of the things to us but I’m so happy that at  least he’s talking to someone!  That’s the whole point of this right?  He started opening up about some kids at school who are not very nice to him.  Our biggest fear come to light.  She didn’t elaborate much and I’m sure it’s because she wants to build up that trust with him, I get it.  As we go we will learn more.  Baby steps.

She is going to work on coping skills with him and keep tabs on what’s going on at school and his feelings.  It’s not a situation where he needs to go every week, probably a couple times a month for now.  We just want him to have a safe space.  We want to be ahead of anything that may come up.  We want to know how to handle things as they do come up.  We want to be guided in the best way to handle family and friends who are less than supportive.  He is my beautiful sparkle boy and I do not want anyone to dull his shine.